HOOVER VS. WADE
How Henry Wade, Dallas' law-and-order DA, ran afoul of J. Edgar Hoover
SCOTT K. PARKS
Updated: 30 June 2013 12:00 AM
J. Edgar Hoover and Henry Wade had admired each other for more than 20 years
by the time President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22,
Both men looked like human bulldogs. They each carefully crafted their
images as tough, no-nonsense crime fighters - Hoover as the legendary FBI
director, Wade as Dallas County's hard-charging district attorney.
It took Lee Harvey Oswald to drive a wedge between them.
In the weeks after the assassination, Hoover repeatedly denied rumors that
Oswald had been a paid FBI informant. Hoover became enraged when he heard
that Wade told the Warren Commission that if the allegation were true,
Hoover and other FBI higher-ups in Washington might not even be aware of
Wade knew a thing or two about informants. During World War II, he'd been an
undercover FBI agent in Quito, Ecuador. And he told the Warren Commission
that his FBI superiors had required little if any documentation on how he
handled informants, or how much he paid them.
Hoover, upon hearing these assertions, scrawled his frustration across a
memo to subordinates.
"If Wade is on any of our mailing lists, remove his name. He is an absolute
Records on Wade
The Dallas Morning News obtained 350 pages of FBI records on Wade under the
federal Freedom of Information Act. He served as Dallas district attorney
from 1951 to 1987. But the records date back to his successful application
to join the FBI in 1939, the year after earning his law degree from the
University of Texas. The files document how he ran afoul of Hoover in the
chaotic weeks after the JFK assassination.
Newspapers around the world were filled with Dallas-datelined stories about
JFK's murder and the spectacular sequel two days later: A nightclub operator
named Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police
Wade was at the center of events, working closely with investigators as they
prepared to put Ruby on trial for Oswald's murder. He knew a lot about
Oswald, and news-hungry Americans wanted details.
Oswald's murky background contributed to speculation that he was more than
just a lone nut who fired a lucky shot as the presidential motorcade rolled
past the Texas School Book Depository.
Oswald, who was 24 when Ruby killed him, appeared to be a dishonorably
discharged ex-Marine who later sought political asylum in the Soviet Union
at the height of the Cold War in 1960. After two years in Russia, he
returned to the United States with a Russian wife, Marina. Then he took a
series of menial jobs while dabbling in communist politics and publicly
representing himself as a supporter of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The FBI was well aware of Oswald before the assassination because of his
high-profile defection to Russia. Early in 1963, New Orleans police arrested
him after a street scuffle while he was passing out pro-Castro leaflets.
Oswald asked an FBI agent to come see him in jail, and the New Orleans
office accommodated his request. Later in 1963, Dallas FBI Agent James Hosty
inherited the file on Oswald and went to see Marina Oswald at her home in
Irving. Oswald was not there at the time.
Some conspiracy theorists believed Oswald was a Soviet agent. Others thought
he might be infiltrating communist groups for the FBI. Still others, who saw
him as a lone renegade, viewed his contacts with federal agents as evidence
that the FBI was doing its job by tracking a known subversive.
Who was Oswald? No one could pin down the answer 50 years ago, and the
argument continues to this day.
Hugh Aynesworth, author and former newspaper reporter, has researched the
people and events surrounding the assassination for half a century.
He believes the market is so flooded with misinformation, disinformation and
half-truths that many people believe Oswald, despite any real evidence, was
part of a conspiracy.
Aynesworth said Oswald was simply a loner and a misfit.
"Oswald was like a rat," he said. "He lived sparingly, but he got what he
The Houston Post published a story on Jan. 1, 1964, that drew the world's
attention. It quoted unnamed sources who alleged that Oswald was an FBI
informant operating under the code number S172 and earning $200 a month.
The story appeared under the byline of reporter Alonzo Hudkins. Parts of the
story were highly questionable, according to Aynesworth, who was a Dallas
Morning News reporter at the time and who knew Hudkins well.
"Lonnie was a hell of a nice guy," Aynesworth recalled. "But he sometimes
wrote stuff he shouldn't have."
Aynesworth said Hudkins was a nuisance who called him often after the
assassination to trade information. During one phone call, Aynesworth said
Hudkins pressed him to confirm details that he planned to publish in The
The conversation turned to how the FBI identified Oswald in its files.
"I didn't know anything about a number," Aynesworth said. "I just made that
S172 number up and gave it to him. I wanted him to stop calling and wasting
my time. I was busy. I never dreamed that he would write that story, because
there was no way they could confirm that number."
Within days of the Houston Post story, rumors of Oswald's FBI connections
swirled around Congress. Senate staffers reported to their bosses that
confidential sources in the CIA, Secret Service and State Department were
confirming that the FBI paid Oswald $200 a month and assigned him ID No.
Whether those supposed confidential sources actually knew anything is
unclear. They may have simply been recycling the questionable information in
In an effort to tamp down the rumors, an agitated Hoover deployed Cartha
DeLoach, one of his top assistants, to meet with powerful U.S. Sen.
James Eastland, the Mississippi Democrat who was chairman of the Judiciary
DeLoach laid responsibility for the Oswald-as-informant rumors directly at
"I mentioned [to the senator] that Wade had made false statements before the
Warren Commission and that we were prepared to prove those statements were
false," DeLoach reported to Hoover.
As January 1964 wore on, pressure mounted on the Warren Commission to track
down information about Oswald's alleged FBI connections. But J.
Lee Rankin, the commission's general counsel, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief
Justice Earl Warren, the commission's chairman, did not want to be seen as
conducting an investigation of Hoover's FBI.
So they tried to move quietly.
Records show that Rankin and Warren summoned Wade to Washington to get an
update on the assassination investigation in Dallas. Their meeting Jan. 24
was informal, and no notes were taken.
Wade, repeating the assertions from the Houston Post story three weeks
earlier, told Warren and Rankin that a reporter claimed Oswald was a paid
informant making $200 a month, under the bureau ID No. S172.
But that wasn't what made Hoover angry.
Wade went on to tell Rankin and Warren that when he was an undercover FBI
agent in South America during World War II, he didn't have to keep receipts
or identify his paid informants.
The implication was clear: FBI headquarters - meaning J. Edgar Hoover -
might not even know if Oswald had been a bureau informant, because field
agents might not have shared that information with their Washington
Hoover was livid. He reacted by ordering an internal investigation of Wade's
wartime service in the FBI.
"I told Mr. Rankin that I most certainly could state that at least for the
last 20 years, I know Mr. Wade's statements would not hold water,"
Hoover wrote to his subordinates. "I would like to now have a further
analysis of exactly how Wade operated and how monies were paid to him as
well as a listing of the funds supplied to him and what disposition he made
Hoover assigned J. Gordon Shanklin, head of the FBI's Dallas office, to
confront Wade with the bureau's records on his wartime service in Ecuador.
After the meeting, Shanklin reported back to Hoover that Wade had refreshed
his memory - and backtracked on his story.
"He [Wade] now realizes he did take receipts from informants and these
expenditures were reported to the bureau in detail," Shanklin wrote. "He did
not handle any informants without the full knowledge of the bureau."
This was, of course, exactly what Hoover wanted to hear. But he still
excoriated Wade as "an absolute skunk."
Kim Wade, a Dallas attorney and Henry Wade's son, reviewed his father's FBI
file at the request of The News. Afterward, he said: "If my dad were alive
and looking back on this incident, I think he would be wryly amused. He may
have adjusted his story to maintain good relations with the FBI. But the big
picture is that the FBI wanted it to appear that it had nothing to do with
Hoover died in 1972.
Wade died in 2001. He went to his grave believing that Oswald was the only
person who shot JFK.
"The only way there could have been a conspiracy, in my opinion, is that at
the time Oswald was planning this, he had some co-conspirators who never
showed up at the assassination," Wade told an assassination researcher in
Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, also reviewed
Wade's FBI file for The News and said it confirmed what he already knew.
"The FBI was trying to cover its butt and deny that it had bungled the case
ahead of the assassination," he said.
When asked his opinion of Oswald's relationship with the FBI, Mack said he's
One thing gives him pause, he said.
Several days before the assassination, Oswald dropped off a note at the
FBI's Dallas office and asked a secretary to give it to Hosty. To this day,
Mack said, no one is sure what the note said.
One version is that Oswald's note asked Hosty not to bother his wife again
and to speak to him instead if he had questions. The other version is that
Oswald, who could be hotheaded, accused Hosty of harassing him and
threatened to blow up the FBI office.
After the assassination, Hoover ordered Shanklin, the agent in charge of the
Dallas office, to destroy the note. Shanklin didn't want to do the job. So,
Hosty tore it up and flushed it down a toilet.
"That tells me that the FBI had a secret, and I would like to know what it
is," Mack said.
Born: Nov. 11, 1914
Career: FBI agent, 1939-42; U.S. Navy during World War II, taking part in
invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa; Dallas County district attorney,
Died: March 1, 2001
J. Edgar Hoover
Born: Jan. 1, 1895
Career: FBI director, 1935-72; served under six presidents
Died: May 2, 1972
Regards, TOM BLACKWELL, PO Box 25403, Dallas, Texas 75225